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Why the Climate Movement Is Supporting Auto Worker’s Fight for a Just Transition

By Sydney Ghazarian - Labor Network for Sustainability, August 17, 2023

Welcome everyone! My name is Sydney, I am an organizer with the Labor Network for Sustainability, and I am honored to facilitate tonight’s Solidarity Call for United Auto Workers Union, which is currently bargaining for a fair contract with the Big 3 Automakers- Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. 

What makes tonight’s call so special is that it’s a solidarity call by and for the climate movement because we recognize that UAW’s fight is our fight too.

What I love about the climate movement is that we are fighters. And our fight has spanned decades and across generations, and for the last several years, hundreds and thousands of us have rallied, door knocked, made calls, and done sit ins and direct actions to fight for a Green New Deal– which is a society-wide mobilization and just transition to decarbonize the economy while repairing historic harm and creating millions of high-paying, union jobs.

And I want to be clear: Without us fighting for a Green New Deal, there would be no Inflation Reduction Act and its historic investments in clean energy. But we also know that the IRA is not a Green New Deal, and falls desperately short of the Green New Deal’s vision of the world we are trying to build. Rather than massive investments in the public sector, frontline communities, and good, green, union jobs that uplift working people, the IRA invests primarily in private corporations– often the same ones responsible for perpetuating the climate crisis in the first place. 

Unlike the IRA, the Green New Deal understands that the implementation of climate policy, and how resources are distributed to achieve it, are key to ensuring climate justice and ensuring that millions of people are equipped to take that leap of faith away from fossil fuels and into a green economy. 

This May Day, We Celebrate Making a Living Wage on a Living Planet

By Bob Muehlenkamp - Third Act, May 1, 2023

On May Day we celebrate worker solidarity in the continuing struggle for fair wages, dignity, and social justice. As part of the climate justice movement, we in Third Act connect climate action with the struggle to create better jobs, change our obscene economic inequality, and fight for racial and gender justice. We know we can’t solve these crises separately or one at a time. We need intersectional solutions. So on this May Day we stand in solidarity with workers in our common struggles.

The history of May Day shows just how common these struggles are.

In the spring of 1886, workers went on strike at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company. On May 3rd, as the police protected strike-breakers, they shot and killed one striker and injured others. To protest this police brutality unions held a mass meeting the next day in Haymarket Square in Chicago. After the rally someone, never identified, threw a bomb. Police opened fire on the crowd, injuring 60; 7 police were killed. Three years later, in 1889, unions declared May 1st as May Day, to commemorate the strike and the Haymarket Affair.

Thirteen years later, in 1902, J. P. Morgan (yes, the founder of Chase Bank), in order to stop competition and create a monopoly, and to prevent workers from organizing unions, merged six farm machine companies into International Harvester. By the 1970s, IH was the fourth largest U. S. corporation.

Workers fought for another 39 years to organize a union at IH in 1941. They fought for the next 50 years to make their jobs secure and pay a living wage They went on strike for over 100 days in 1950, 63 days in 1958, 42 days in 1967, l15 days in 1973, 42 days days in 1976, 172 days in 1979, and, 101 years after police killed a striker at Mccormick, 163 days in 1987. That’s how workers and their unions built a middle class against J. P. Morgan’s monopoly. J. P. Morgan and International Harvester didn’t change. They couldn’t. Workers and their union forced them to pay a living wage.

A Frontline Response to Andreas Malm

By Madeline ffitch - Verso, April 22, 2023

Earth First! activist Madeline ffitch responds to Andreas Malm: "What if the mass climate movement was focused on supporting frontline direct action?"

By the time I read How to Blow Up a Pipeline, I had already seen its neon cover around, the unmistakable title plastered across the front in large block print. I had seen activists reading it, but not the activists I’d expected. These were well-heeled and buttoned-up types, people from environmental nonprofits, people I would associate with a permitted rally rather than an act of eco-sabotage. When I showed the book to one of my movement elders, a far less well-heeled person, they grimaced. “Who the hell comes up with a title like that?” they asked. “Does he think this is a game?” This movement elder, known for being grumpy and speaking plainly, is a decades-long veteran of direct-action eco-defense, a walking repository of tactical knowledge and movement history. They’re also an old Earth First!er. I’m a slightly younger one.

In his sensationally titled book, Andreas Malm tells us that between 1973 and 2010, Earth First!, the Earth Liberation Front, the Animal Liberation Front, and related groups pulled off 27,100 separate acts of direct action and sabotage. These would seem to be laudable examples in service of Malm’s central proposal, which is that climate activists must be willing to escalate tactics and consider property destruction. Yet Malm includes these actions only in order to disqualify them. “All those thousands of monkeywrenching actions,” he writes, “achieved little if anything and had no lasting gains to show for them. They were not performed in dynamic relation to a mass movement, but largely in a void.” Malm goes on to say that these actions “petered out just as the climate movement came into its own.”

Malm gets a lot right in his slim neon polemic, but when he dismisses existing traditions of militant eco-defense, he undermines his own good ideas. Direct action is not made relevant by its link to mass movements. It is the other way around. The more out of touch the climate movement is from what is happening on the frontlines, the more irrelevant it becomes. The frontline might sound to some like revolutionary jargon, but it’s simply another name for the often rural and sparsely populated places where people must defend their homes and lifeways from being sacrificed to industrialization. Here, theory is put into practice. There is real work to do—dishes, chopping wood, hauling water, physically stopping a pipeline from being built—and this means that the abstractions that bog down mass movement participation (ideological pacifism, climate fatalism) are less likely to gain a foothold. If the climate movement is looking for direction, as Malm claims, it would do well to pay attention to the tactics and strategies of those who defend the land and water far away from major centers of commerce and policy, often with only a handful of people and by whatever means necessary. In comparison to mass movement maundering, the ethical and strategic clarity on the frontlines is bracingly refreshing.

We Must Ask: Does Fossil Fuel Divestment Work?

By Ted Franklin - Common Dreams, April 4, 2023

As it hits its 10th year, the divestment movement claims many moral victories, yet fossil fuel companies keep booming and carbon keeps rising. Divestment fails to turn off the taps.

"After a decade of action, we are making a difference in the fight against climate change,"proclaims DivestInvest, the global divestment network. Dozens of leading climate organizations from 350.org to the World Council of Churches have enlisted as core partners or endorsers of DivestInvest.

According to DivestInvest's website, 1,585 institutions have publicly committed to "at least some form" of fossil fuel divestment, representing an enormous $39.2 trillion of assets under management.

"That's as if the two biggest economies in the world, the United States and China, combined, chose to divest from fossil fuels," the site goes on.

DivestInvest's 2021 glossy prospectus intimates that, thanks to divestment, the fossil fuel industry has begun to collapse. At the very least, oil and gas moguls should be trembling with fear that divestment activists will soon force them to close their spigots and relinquish their financial and political power.

If only this were true.

The balance sheets of the fossil fuel companies say otherwise. Instead of the industry tailspin portrayed in DivestInvest's report, the fossil fuel giants are awash in record profits. In 2021, The Hillreports, "the four largest oil and gas companies made over $75 billion in profits, returned billions to their shareholders through record dividends and share buybacks, and handed out millions in compensation to their chief executive officers."

US to Use Defense Production Act to Boost Renewable Energy

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, July 2022

On June 6, President Joe Biden issued a “Presidential Determination” under Section 303 of the Defense Production Act to expand US production of heat pumps, declaring it a matter of national security. “Ensuring a robust, resilient, and sustainable domestic industrial base to meet the requirements of the clean energy economy is essential to our national security, a resilient energy sector, and the preservation of domestic critical infrastructure.” The Determination found:

Electric heat pumps are industrial resources, materials, or critical technology items essential to the national defense;

without Presidential action under section 303 of the Act, United States industry cannot reasonably be expected to provide the capability for the needed industrial resource, material, or critical technology item in a timely manner; and

purchases, purchase commitments, or other action pursuant to section 303 of the Act are the most cost effective, expedient, and practical alternative method for meeting the need.

“Action to expand the domestic production capability for electric heat pumps is necessary to avert an industrial resource or critical technology item shortfall that would severely impair national defense capability.” — Memorandum on Presidential Determination Pursuant to Section 303 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended, on Electric Heat Pumps.

The Presidential Determination follows a public campaign to persuade President Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act to produce heat pumps to reduce European dependence on – and payments for — Russian natural gas that is helping pay for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The June issue of Making a Living on a Living Planet published a letter and petition from 11-year-old activist Lillian Fortuna asking Biden to “immediately invoke the Defense Production Act to get American manufacturers to start producing electric heat pumps in quantity, so we can ship them to Europe where they can be installed in time to dramatically lessen Putin’s power.” She cited an article by Bill McKibben laying out how the Defense Production Act could be used to expand heat pump production to compensate for natural gas shortages and price increases in Europe, the US, and worldwide.

A child has led them – to produce climate-saving heat pumps!

Read Bill McKibben’s “Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom” here.

A Child Shall Lead Them: to Heat Pumps for Europe

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, June 2022

While the Russian military continues to devastate Ukraine and the US sends billions for military aid to Ukraine, European countries continue to support the Russian war effort by purchasing Russian oil and gas. Meanwhile, fossil fuel companies reap a bonanza on shortages that are impoverishing American consumers at the gasoline pump. And even as climate catastrophe is causing still more devastating heatwaves, droughts, and floods those companies are planning to expand fossil fuel production to exploit the Ukraine crisis still more.

Why not starve the Russian war machine by a crash program to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy? Among those asking that question is Lillian Fortuna, an 11-year-old activist who started this petition to President Joe Biden:

Dear President Biden:

Right now your administration is taking advice from big fossil fuel companies regarding what to do about Europe’s dependency on Russian oil and gas. These companies want to increase production of natural gas here and ship it to Europe as a replacement for Russian gas, which, surprise, happens to be enormously profitable for them. Sadly, your administration has granted more drilling leases than the Trump administration just as data has emerged showing the industry was undercounting its methane emissions by 70%. It is really surprising that you are choosing this solution instead of using this moment as an opportunity to help Europe switch to ever-cleaner electricity, which is what will really undercut Putin’s power. Environmentalist Bill McKibben has an amazing plan to do just that.

We are writing to ask you to immediately invoke the Defense Production Act to get American manufacturers to start producing electric heat pumps in quantity, so we can ship them to Europe where they can be installed in time to dramatically lessen Putin’s power.

To read and sign the full petition: https://www.change.org/p/joseph-r-biden-stop-putin-by-sending-heat-pumps-to-europe

To read Bill McKibben’s “Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom”: https://billmckibben.substack.com/p/heat-pumps-for-peace-and-freedom?s=r

Hurricane Capitalism

By Eric Fretz - Marx 21, September 3, 2021

Again and Again under capitalism, we have seen poorer people disproportionately hit by the deadly effects of events like cyclones and earthquakes, as natural disasters highlight existing unnatural inequalities. It is now obvious that not just the effects, but the causes of extreme weather are stemming from capitalism.

The recent IPCC report proved that higher air and sea temperatures caused by global warming have already led to more hurricanes, and will continue to do so. “In the past seventy years,” Bill McKibben noted, “the United States has averaged three land-falling storms a year; Ida is the seventeenth in the past two years.” 

But warming also leads to a “rapid intensification” of storms. Ida turned into a hurricane in just six hours.

When Ida hit the Louisiana coast Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane with winds up to 150 mph, it was the second most powerful storm to hit the state in its recorded history.

Devastation 

Over 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi are without power, including the entire city of New Orleans, parts of which may remain without electricity for weeks. 

Sewage pumping stations in New Orleans, which have no backup power, stopped working, leaving 441,000 people in 17 parishes with no clean drinking water, and no water to flush toilets. Another 329,000 people were under boil water advisories. However, it may be hard for many to boil water without electricity.

Added to this misery was a heat advisory which combined with humidity to reach real feel temperatures of over a hundred degrees

Tens of thousands of residents were left to themselves in figuring out how to evacuate, and even those with cars were at a standstill on choked highways. 

In a chilling reminder of the horrors of Katrina, the New Orleans Police Department announced that “anti-looting patrols” would be set up. The mayor then used the resulting arrests to justify a curfew and calling in the National Guard—not to rescue people or rebuild, but to patrol the streets. 

As in Katrina, it is poor and black people who are most at risk of losing their homes—and their lives.

Ida came one year after Hurricane Laura, which brought widespread destruction to the mostly Black industrial area around Mossville, causing chemical fires and turning Lake Charles into a toxic soup. The displacement and continued housing shortage caused by Laura worsened the spread of Covid in the area. 

The displacement caused by Ida in New Orleans could be even worse. Hospitals in Louisiana are already filled with over 2,400 patients with coronavirus. There were not enough empty beds in the state to evacuate patients from New Orleans hospitals. Staff in one hospital reported having to manually pump air into the lungs of intubated Covid patients as they moved them to a floor with a working generator.

Victory for climate activists in the Dutch Courts and in Exxon and Chevron boardrooms

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, May 27, 2021

May 26 will go down in history as a very bad day for the fossil fuel industry for three reasons: in the Netherlands, the courts issued a landmark decision that requires Royal Dutch Shell to cut its carbon emissions – including Scope 3 emissions – by 45% by 2030. Also on May 26, activist shareholders won separate victories at the corporate annual meetings of ExxonMobil and Chevron. Bill McKibben reflects on all three events in “Big Oil’s Bad Bad Day” in The New Yorker , and Jamie Henn wrote “A Landmark Day in the fight against fossil fuels” in Fossil Free Media.

The case of Royal Dutch Shell is summarized by Friends of the Earth Canada in their press release , which also links to an English-language version of the Court’s decision.

“On May 26, as a result of legal action brought by Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) together with 17,000 co-plaintiffs and six other organisations the court in The Hague ruled that Shell must reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% within 10 years.

…..“This is a turning point in history. This case is unique because it is the first time a judge has ordered a large polluting company to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement. This ruling may also have major consequences for other big polluters,” says Roger Cox, lawyer for Friends of the Earth Netherlands.

The verdict requires Royal Dutch Shell to reduce its emissions by 45% by the end of 2030. Shell is also responsible for emission from customers and suppliers. There is a threat of human rights violations to the “right to life” and “undisturbed family life”.

German news organization Deutsche Welle offers an excellent, more thorough discussion in “Shell ordered to reduce CO2 emissions in watershed ruling”, which points out that the case was argued on human rights grounds – much like the precedent-setting Urgenda case and the recent German constitutional case. In those cases however, governments were called upon to defend the human right to a future safe from the dangers of climate change. The Shell case is the first time such an argument has been tried against a corporation – and is seen as a harbinger of future legal action.

When Does the Fightback Begin?

By Andreas Malm - Verso Books, April 23, 2021

Andreas Malm response to critics of How to Blow Up a Pipeline and asks when, and how, will the militant resistance movement emerge.

When writing interventions on contemporary events, one’s best hope is that comrades of all stripes will engage with them closely and critically. I have recently written two –Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency: War Communism in the Twenty-First Century and How to Blow Up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire– and in return received an abundance of such gifts. Some have, naturally, raised serious objections to my arguments. Some of these concern vital strategic questions for the climate movement and the broader left. I therefore feel a duty to respond and elaborate on certain points, and I shall here begin with How to Blow Up a Pipeline. But, first, I should like to point out that the most productive discussions I have had about this book have not made it into text. They have come in talks with comrades in and around the climate movement, very much including, I should like to stress, given that I am rather critical of this organisation in How to Blow, people from Extinction Rebellion, who have struck me as highly astute and lucid in their views of the dilemmas of the struggle. Here I shall focus on critique presented in written form, after having restated and updated some of the basic propositions in How to Blow Up a Pipeline.

Overwhelming odds, unexpected alliances and tough losses: how defeating Keystone XL built a bolder, savvier climate movement

By Nick Engelfried - Waging Nonviolence, January 29, 2021

When President Biden rescinded a crucial permit for the Keystone XL pipeline last week, it marked the culmination of one of the longest, highest-profile campaigns in the North American climate movement. The opposition to Keystone XL included large environmental organizations, grassroots climate activist networks, Nebraska farmers, Texas landowners, Indigenous rights groups and tribal governments. Few environmental campaigns have touched so many people over such large swaths of the continent.

The Keystone XL resistance was part of the ongoing opposition to the Canadian tar sands, one of the most carbon-intensive industrial projects on the planet. Yet, it came to symbolize something even bigger. Many activists saw stopping Keystone XL as a measure of success for the climate movement itself.

“Keystone XL isn’t just any project,” said longtime activist Matt Leonard, who coordinated several major protests against the pipeline. “Its defeat is a testament to what movement building and direct action can accomplish.”

A stroke of President Biden’s pen finally killed Keystone XL. But paving the way for this victory were countless battles at the grassroots level, where activists tested new tactics and organizing strategies that built a bolder, savvier climate movement. Some of the groups involved took radically different approaches to politics, leading to unexpected alliances and occasional bitter feuds. And there were losses — other major oil pipelines, including the southern leg of Keystone XL itself, were completed even as the fight over the more famous northern half dragged on.

Yet, resistance to the Keystone XL’s northern leg succeeded against overwhelming odds. While there is always a possibility it could be resurrected someday, chances of that happening anytime soon seem slim. Understanding how this victory happened — and what it means for the climate movement — requires examining how 10-plus years of tar sands resistance played out in far-flung parts of North America.

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